A forensic auditor will do an initial probe into possible irregularities in the borough's zoning office records.
— A forensic auditor will do an initial probe into possible irregularities in the borough's zoning office records.
By a 7-0 vote, the council approved giving a contract to a forensic accounting firm to do a one-day probe to see if there is evidence to have a broader investigation.
The issue has been discussed by the council for many months and stems from questions raised regarding the record keeping of former zoning officer Wayne Earley.
The letter from Marx Accounting & Forensic Services of Scranton says the proposal is to do a "forensic accounting investigation into alleged irregularities in the accounting books and records of Honesdale Borough for a three year period prior to the termination of Wayne Early who worked for many years as the Borough's zoning code enforcement officer."
Accountant John Marx said he spent several hours reviewing some information provided to him in relation to the matter and has concluded "... it would be in the Borough's best interest to have someone with forensic accounting investigation skills look at the Borough records to determine if there is evidence to support a more in depth forensic accounting investigation."
From that initial probe, Marx wrote, "I could not conclude from the information provided whether a broader investigation is or is not needed."
To that end, he proposed spending one day to do the following tasks:
• I would meet with your former bookkeeper/treasurer who is now retired. Mr. Scott Smith has informed me that he can arrange this.
• I would browse through the cancelled checks, deposit slips and bank statements for the period under review. Mr. Smith communicated to me that he would work on making these available.
• I would review the Borough's written procedures pertaining to the issuance of building permits. I would also review some of the permit records during the period under review.
• I would review your accounting records that are in your QuickBooks software.
• Prior to going to the Borough's office, I would prepare a list of questions I would like to get answered during my visit.
• After leaving the Borough, I would prepare a brief report summarizing what I did and found and the conclusions I have reached as to whether or not I believe a more in depth investigation is in your best interest.
Smith, chairman of the finance committee, told members of the council the firm required a retainer of $1,000. Their hourly rate is $125 and any unused portion would be returned to the borough.
Members voted 7-0 to move forward with the probe and authorized $1,000 be paid for the retainer. It has not yet been determined when Marx will do the one-day audit.
Smith gave a financial update to the council based on number collected at the end-of-year budget.
Smith said there is $140,000 in the general fund, another $51,500 in the contingency funding and $33,000 in debt service.
Overall, Smith said the borough was "about $80,000" over the original budget plan, which he said is possible.
"I want to compliment all of the departments," he said, noting every one came in under budget.
Smith credited borough employees for coming up with "a lot of ideas" to save money for the borough.
In other borough matters:
• A letter was read from solicitor Rich Henry which was sent to property owner Ann Reynolds. Reynolds had an attorney send a letter to the borough asking for an apology for remarks made during a recent meeting.
Reynolds has been in a property dispute regarding her Erie Street residence.
Henry said it was his opinion that no members of borough council "acted inappropriately" toward Reynolds.
He also said he spoke with Reynolds on several occasions, indicating it was a "private matter" and she should retain legal counsel.
"I believe no apology of borough council is necessary," he said in the letter.
• Councilwoman Juanita Pisano reported that a grant of $16,800 has been received toward the purchase of a new police car. The grant was secured through the office of Sen. Pat Toomey and comes from the United States Department of Agriculture.
Mayor Ed Langendoerfer and Honesdale Police Chief Joe LoBasso commended Pisano for helping to secure the grant.
• Council approved a resolution from the Greater Honesdale Partnership concerning the Route 6 Heritage Community initiative.
• Members voted 7-0 to approve an amendment to the ordinance related to parking in the winter.
Twenty-three streets have been designated snow routes and there is no parking allowed from Dec. 1 to March 1.
For other streets, parking is allowed unless a snow emergency is declared by Langendoerfer.
The mayor will utilize local media as well as the internet in declaring a snow emergency.
• Members decided to review options for getting electricity since the current contract expires in March. Smith suggested advertising for bids "to see if we can reduce the electric charges."
That bid will include all borough facilities as well as street lighting.
• Parks and recreation committee chairman Mike Slish reported a new initiative to begin looking at upgrades to Central Park. All aspects of the park will be examined.
• The council voted to change its monthly meeting time to 7 p.m. The council has been meeting at 6:30 p.m.